To mark the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting American women the right to vote, Chicago artist Ginny Sykes invited one-hundred women into her studio. They all wore an identical draped dress and held the exact same pose—one hand on the heart and one on the abdomen. The portraits were then printed on translucent fabric as a powerful demonstration of women’s strength, intimacy and intuition. The photographic series “One Hundred Women: Collaborations Beyond the Veil” was born. Sykes’ fabric banner featuring artist Helene Smith-Romer, alongside work by eight female fiber-based artists from Chicago and beyond, is on view at The Art Center Highland Park as part of Fiber-Fashion-Feminism—a group exhibition that explores the connections among the three.
“Don’t Touch,” an intricately knitted corset-like piece by Laura Morrison softly hugs a mannequin’s torso. Elsewhere, Katrin Schnabl’s “Portal”—thin layers of see-through fabric are stressed on a metal frame—resembles an abstract painting of sorts. Marty Ornish creates “She gazed at the carousel through rose-colored glasses,” from a repurposed yo-yo quilt (think round pieces of fabric stitched together). Amid works by Chicago fashion designer and artist Maria Pinto, Nirmal Raja, Nneka Kai and Jennifer Markowitz, is “Tales of A Phoenix: The Letting Go Project”—an ongoing performative work that “harnesses the power of ritual to bring women together from across the world in a unified release of old patterns that no longer serve their personal growth,” as Yana Schnitzler puts it. Collecting pieces of fabric inscribed with women’s intentions of what they wish to let go of, the artist stitches the testimonies together to create a massive skirt—big enough to fill an entire gallery. More than a cathartic moment, the work is meant to represent the global collective feminine voice.
Under the curatorial eye of Caren Helene Rudman, yarn, synthetic fibers and cloth express feminist ideas while, at the same time, make space for self-expression, dialogue and community engagement. “There is an important and groundbreaking group of artists challenging perceptions and pushing the art form—frankly, it’s unbelievable!” Working alongside Chicago-based artist and educator Anne Wilson, Rudman noted they had something in common: “Anne echoed our belief that there is an amazing new body of work happening in fiber arts, more than people expect if they think solely of weaving, quilts and textiles,” she says, explaining that this broad scope prompted a challenging but interesting process of hand-selecting each artist—one that helped shape the exhibition concept overall.
“We really feel that this is consistent with our vision,” says executive director James M. Lynch. “Our commitment to community and our deep dive into the cutting-edge innovation of fiber artists, has enabled us to continue bringing people together in a new and exciting way,” he adds. “Think of the word FABRIC and the literal weaving of threads to create something bigger, and then think of multiple aspects of a community, coming and ‘weaving’ together to create something bigger and stronger than any one of us individually.”
Making space for such conversations is an important part of the “Fiber-Fashion-Feminism” exhibition. After all, fiber art has always been a feminist medium. Women have been doing embroidery work for hundreds of years but it’s always been considered a domestic craft. It wasn’t until the 1970s that fiber became a part of the feminist art movement—a full circle moment. Bringing the work into the gallery took resilience, grit and perseverance. To celebrate the long way female artists—and the medium itself—have come, The Art Center Highland Park provides an opportunity to explore the ways fiber-based art helps reshape the female experience—at this moment and in the future.
Opens April 29, The Art Center Highland Park, 1957 Sheridan Road, Highland Park. Common Thread, The Art Center Highland Park Annual Spring Benefit and Fashion Show (featuring artists and fashion designers Maria Pinto and Katrin Schnabl), April 29, 7pm
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rigouvasia.com